A man with no memory. A memory with no man. And the broken girl who spans the bridge between them.
There are books that are read and enjoyed, books that thrill, that scare, that anger, that birth hope, renew faith, hint at love. Amnesia is not one of those books. In fact, Amnesia isn't quite like any other book I've read, and now that I've done so, ordering my thoughts and feelings about it seem as herculean a task as understanding all the brilliant nuances and twisting labyrinths found in its pages. But I'll try.
Highly stylized, brutally intelligent, psychotically affecting, this dark tale of a young man's twisted life and identity is gripping and morose, sickly seeping a sense of impending doom as it progresses in fits and starts, sliding forwards and backwards. It's a story boldly told, uniquely told, in a rambling narrative with a shifting focus, a narrative that slaps the reader upside the head with blurry snapshots of crystalline images. Broken family, tragedy, isolation, angst, sexual assault, theft, suicide of the mind, identity, Cooper hits hard with a panorama of confused misery and keeps it coming in this tale that - with its abstract and esoteric fugues - is both hard to follow and impossible to set down.
If I am to be honest, and though it pains me to admit, I can't say I understood all of it. In fact, parts of it left my mind feeling beaten, as if my intellect went to war and came home in a black bag. I can't even say I liked it, really. It's not the sort of book that I consider likable. It's depressing, confusing, and roughly akin to what my imagination would attribute to a bad acid trip. It's also compelling, and irresistible, and more than a little heartbreaking. Whether I liked it or not seems far too pedestrian a question for the weight of my emotional response to it.
If I understood it just a wee bit more, if it were just a small bit less...out there, more concrete, a bit more comprehensible in those sections that, for me, weren't, this would be one of the most significant books I've ever read. I still wouldn't say I liked it, but it sure as hell would've garnered five stars. Perhaps when I reread it...and I will definitely, unequivocally reread it...I'll be able to put together some of those pieces that didn't quite fit for me. I definitely think attacking it with the big picture intact would open up new layers of the telling for appreciation.
There were sections towards the middle and again towards the end that seemed - I'm sorry to say - to balloon out a bit. That seemed to take the dangerous step from abstruse to pedantic, not for the sake of the story being told, but just to be even more enigmatic. Those few passages kept me from waving my hands in the air and stomping my feet in full appreciation. Those few passages were the only ones in this tight, confusing, and deeply sorrowful masterpiece where my attention wavered and my mind shied away.
The rest...well, it's not Milrose Munce, certainly, but it's another side of the mind of an author who, I'm beginning to suspect, thinks so far outside the lines he's in a different parking lot. On a different planet. Visiting, however, always leaves a lasting...memory.
Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author for the purpose of an honest review. My rating, review, and all thoughts and comments included are my own.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.